'Women Forward' group takes Flint water message to steps of State Capitol

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LANSING (WJRT) - (10/28/15) - A group from Flint were at the State Capitol on Wednesday, telling the Governor that the state's action plan for fixing the city's water emergency isn't enough.

The group calls themselves 'Women Forward'. They say in order for Flint to move forward, the governor needs to declare a "State of Emergency".

"Poison water in Flint. Poison water in Flint," is what the group chanted from the steps of the State Capitol in Lansing.

Voices from the relatively small group echoed onto the Capitol grounds.

"What brought us here today are the atrocities that are going on in the city of Flint," said member Lela McGee-Harvey.

McGee-Harvey is mad about the lead found in the city's drinking water and what it exposed children and others to.

"There is no city that I can think of that you can compare that has the atrocities in that is being fed lead at the levels we are consuming," McGee-Harvey said.

The group praised the temporary return to the Detroit Water System until the KWA pipeline is online, but the group argues widespread damage to Flint's people and infrastructure rises to the level of a "State of Emergency" declaration - similar to what you'd see after a flooding or tornado event. They feel such a move would open the door to FEMA and other federal agencies coming in with money and resources.

"Lead is irreversible. Lead contaminates the brain. Lead holds our children back," said Bishop Bernadel Jefferson, a member of 'Women Forward'.

Members want more money set aside for testing and medical bills, the replacement of old city pipes and additional home water filters.

"This is not something to play with, but in the meantime, we need whole house filters to minimize the lead," McGee-Harvey said.

State Senator Jim Ananich (D-Flint) introduced the group on the Senate Floor on Wednesday.

"Folks want answers, and I think they deserve them," Ananich said.

The lawmaker called for a State of Emergency to be declared weeks ago. He said it would allow for a single point person to be on the ground to help coordinate all the efforts that are going on.

"We have a lot of great people in our community and different agencies and different individuals helping out, but it relatively hasn't been the most organized," Ananich said. "It's a lot of good people trying to figure out the answer."

Ananich has called for more legislative oversight into decisions surrounding Flint water. He said people should be held accountable for the mistakes that have lasting consequences.

"It's almost $10 million of the taxpayer's money (that's) being spent to fix a problem that should have never happened in the first place," Ananich said. "And I think we have a responsibility and a right to know what happened."

State Representative Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) shares similar views as Ananich.

"About a month a half ago, we did a special investigation on two state representatives to expel them from the chambers. We spent a lot of time and intensity on that," Singh said. "To me, this issue is 10 times more important and why haven't we had a single legislative meeting about this and oversight committee meetings? To me, that's what we should be doing."

The governor's office told ABC12 they continue to work with Flint on infrastructure challenges, including short and long-term needs. They cited millions of dollars given a few months back to help with continued improvements.

The city said it would cost more than $1 billion to overhaul its entire pipe systems.

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